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‘American Idol’ Backlot Talk

Mar 13, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Chuck Ross: Hi again everybody. It’s Chuck Ross here, editorial director at TelevisionWeek magazine and we’re on once again with Ken Warwick, one of our executive producers and many times, director, of “American Idol.” How are you Ken?
Ken Warwick: I’m good. Thank you, Chuck.
Mr. Ross: Well, what a week. The guys just didn’t really seem to step it up this week.
Mr. Warwick: The problem is that when we’re at this stage of the competition, these three weeks, the boys can actually sing whatever they want, the choice is their’s. And the fact of the matter is that because of their age, I guess, their musical knowledge is really quite narrow; they sing what is their favorite song. Most of the songs, America’s never heard of, and the truth of the matter is when you hear a song for the very first time, especially if it’s a bit rocky or a bit edgy, it doesn’t make an impact on you and I think that was the problem. The songs the boys chose just didn’t press any buttons with the public or with us.
Mr. Ross: Speaking of that, we’ll start right off with the first, which was Blake. He started off with a song I think most of us have never heard, but he gave it enough oomph and his sort of bee-bop kind of stuff where I think the folks at home and the judges got into it. I mean Simon did say he didn’t understand a word, but it was sort of unique.
Mr. Warwick: That’s the thing about Blake. He does step it up; he puts his own beat box thing in, he does his own scratchy thing, and he’s entertaining. So, as you say, the song was completely fresh to all of us, but he made a good go of it and he had enough unique little pieces in it to keep it interesting, so it worked I think.
Mr. Ross: Next we had Sanjaya with a new hairdo, and boy, I think that vocal was a tough one.
Mr. Warwick: Yeah, I think it was. And I must be honest: the hairdo didn’t do him any favors. As the judges said, he is one of the weaker of the boys, and I guess, according the judges, it’ll be just a question of time. But the thing is he’s a very good-looking kid, and the public likes that; the young girls will vote for him, and they have been so far. So, you never know.
Mr. Ross: Then we had Sundance, and I think the judges were a little split; Randy and Paula thought that Sundance had hit it two weeks in a row whereas Simon definitely thought that he had lost the charm that he’d had the week before.
Mr. Warwick: Well again, I think it was the song choice, to be honest. He did Pearl Jam, didn’t he? And again, it’s a very limited audience Pearl Jam has in that the song was not the most melodic song on Earth and he did sort of overcook it a little bit, to the point where he just got too excited really when he was doing it. So, the judges thought that that didn’t work either. The truth of the matter is, the week before, he did “Sweet Home Alabama.” Everybody knows it. Everybody loves it. If you’re going to do a rock song, do one that people know.
Mr. Ross: A good lesson learned there. Next came Chris Richardson, and I think the judges liked it for the most part. Randy I think liked it a lot. He said, “You’re in it to win it and made the song your own.” Simon thought it was a bit cutesy and that we haven’t heard the best yet from Chris. I sort of agree with Simon; I think we haven’t heard his best yet.
Mr. Warwick: I think you’re right. I think he’s got a lot more in him. I think he was just trying to mix it up from previous weeks and he was going to do a ballad this week and he chose a Keith Urban song…I think he got away with it. I don’t think it was the best performance he’s ever done, but I think he wasn’t bad at all.
Mr. Ross: Next we have Jared, and Jared has the vocal chops. I think what everyone would like to see a little more from him is just a little more personality.
Mr. Warwick: Absolutely. It was a bit of a strange choice. If you’re going to do a Stevie song, there are a lot to do that maybe would’ve shown you off in a better light. But he did a passable job of it, he really did.
Mr. Ross: Brandon did “Celebrate” and Randy thought it was OK, Paula seemed to like it even better, Simon [was] somewhat disappointed. And again, as with a lot of the boys, it wasn’t his best.
Mr. Warwick: It wasn’t his best. But the guy’s got charisma, he’s got a great face and he’s actually got a good voice. I like to think we haven’t heard the best of him. I think when he gets in his groove, he’s going to be great; he’s just taking a long time to get into it.
Mr. Ross: Next came Phil Stacey who I thought the week before had knocked it out of the park, and I really didn’t think he did this week and I think the judges were disappointed as well. Again, I think it was that choice of song, they thought.
Mr. Warwick: It’s the same thing with me; I was disappointed in it. And that’s the trouble; you’ve always got to step it up from one thing to another. If you get to the point where you disappoint the judges then you’re going to get hammered; they’re going to have a go at you. He’s got a good voice, but I agree the song was an unentity for me.
Mr. Ross: Then we had Chris singing “Born to be Loved” and I think it was a good ending to evening; let’s put it that way.
Mr. Warwick: He’s got a good voice, Chris; it’s as easy as that. He’s got a good voice. He’s got one of those voices that you like to listen to.
Mr. Ross: That’s very perceptive Ken; you’re right.
Mr. Warwick: I think he’s going to be there in the Top 12. I’m pretty sure.
Mr. Ross: Well we will see. Both you and Nigel have been very nice to say that if we get inundated with questions from our listeners…we’re going to bring one in right now. Doug, are you there?
Doug: Yes sir.
Mr. Ross: Doug you’re on the line with Ken Warwick, one of the executive producers and many times the director of “American Idol.” Ken I’d like to introduce you to Doug Ashby from Dallas, Texas.
Mr. Warwick: Hi Doug, how are you?
Doug: Hello Ken. I’m pretty good.
Mr. Ross: And I think Doug has a question about something I’ve wondered about myself, which is about the DVD availability of some of the Idols. Doug, do you want to go ahead and ask your question?
Doug: Yeah. First of all, let me tell you that you guys have a great program. You’ve done a wonderful job of promoting and marketing it over the years, with one glaring exception: I can go to any video store and buy a DVD of virtually any show that’s ever been on TV…but when I look around for “AI,” it’s just not there.
Mr. Warwick: I think Doug that, and I don’t know the precise answer to this, but I do know that every time we come around to doing a DVD, there are always problems with music clearance. Publishers, artists and composers don’t mind clearing a song if they’re singing it in front of 30 million television viewers, but the minute the rights are being given to a company for it to make profits on that, then it becomes a different question.
So I think you get to the point where sometimes it’s just not worth the expense and the aggravation of going down that lane.
Mr. Ross: Well actually, that leads to another question, and Doug, thank you so much for your question. We’ll talk to you Doug, goodbye Doug and thank you very much.
Doug: Thank you.
Mr. Ross: One thing I wanted to ask you…sometimes some songs you can’t do on air even because you can’t get clearance. Is that correct?
Mr. Warwick: That’s very true. There are some artists that are very protective about their stuff, quite rightly so in some respects. And if they don’t like the show or they don’t think it’s their kind of stuff, then I can understand why they don’t want to do it. Case in point, people have been chasing them the last four seasons and because they’re just fantastic artists, the Eagles. I would do anything to get the Eagles, I really would. I think their stuff is fabulous, it was a backdrop of an era; I think they’re nearly all country rock classics, they really are, and I would kill to get their songs. But they say, “Sorry guys. We are very protective about the way that the song is actually used and the way it’s portrayed.” And I can see their point; I can’t blame them. But it is a case in point where we can’t get our hands on the the Eagles, for instance.
Mr. Ross: Let’s move on to the girls real quickly. We opened up with Pat Benatar, sung by Jordin, and the energy between one night later, the boys and the girls, was palpable.
Mr. Warwick: It certainly was. There ain’t no comparison, to be honest. Jordin was fab. She’s a great kid, she’s a lovely girl, she’s got a lovely face; she’s got a lovely sense of performance. She certainly is a performer beyond her years. I think she’s got much more to give us as well. I think you’re going to be surprised; I think she’s great.
Mr. Ross: Next came Sabrina, and her voice is obviously there. I thought Simon’s comment was interesting: if she’s going to be in it to win it, she’s got to show us a little more personality.
Mr. Warwick: That’s the problem. She’s talented, she’s a great-looking girl, she’s got a great figure, she can sing like there’s no tomorrow; it’s just that when she does actually perform, she comes over a little bit hard. Unless she actually smiles, she needs to soften her face a little bit and become a little bit more communicative. But she’s a huge talent. I would be really upset if she lost out because of that, I really would.
Mr. Ross: Next we have Antonella, and we talked a little about her last week. Simon actually made a little reference to the controversy surrounding her and the fact that he sort of wished she was a better singer given all the competition. But before we talk about her singing, if I can trouble you to ask you about that controversy…could you maybe differentiate what happened with her [Frenchie] and what’s going on with Antonella?
Mr. Warwick: I feel sorry for Antonella, to be truthful. She actually hasn’t done anything wrong. She hasn’t done anything in those photographs that an awful lot of girls wouldn’t do on spring break. To be honest, to me, it shows she’s not boring…she’s great. And I think it’s unforgivable for her mates to put this stuff up. I think it’s totally out of order. And I think she’s handled it well, bless her. I think she’s got nothing to regret. Yes, it’s regrettable that the pictures have come out, but she’s not some terrible person as a result of it. It’s just not worth thinking twice about. Now, the difference between her and Frenchie was she was on an organized Web site; I don’t want to go into it too much, but the true misdemeanors, or whatever you want to call them, are not comparable.
Mr. Ross: Great. Thank you so much. And I think Simon and all the judges actually agree that she’s going to have a tough time in a singing competition.
Mr. Warwick: Yeah, she is. I mean, she just up against huge, huge competition, you know? There are girls there that are just absolutely fabulous this year. Another year, she might be entirely different. But with what’s going on in the media, which of course will knock her confidence anyway, she’s still a kid, it just doesn’t all add up in the end to giving the public what they want to see. So, that’s the scenario.
Mr. Ross: Next comes Haley, and I have to tell you, Simon could not have done a better job than to get people to at least sympathize about her; I just felt terrible about what he had to say.
Mr. Warwick: Oh, he was miserable, he was cruel to her. Miserable bugger. He really just upset me, really, because he was getting personal, and it was cruel what he said. Telling the kids you’re so insignificant I can’t remember your name; he was the one that put her there. So if he’s paying so much attention to the kids he’s putting through that he can’t remember their name, he’s not doing a very good job! I’ll tell you now: she’s a lovely girl; she’s a good-looking kid; she’s got a great figure; she’s quite commercial; she’s a great singer and that’s why she’s there. I think good luck to her.
Mr. Ross: Well, what I like about your candor is you don’t give me your opinion.
Mr. Warwick: [Laughs]
Mr. Ross: Next we have Stephanie, and boy she can sing. It’s interesting because we were sort of chiding the boys for not singing a song we knew well enough and it sort of cuts both ways. The judges thought she had picked a song that was almost too well-known.
Mr. Warwick: Yeah, I know. She’s got a great voice, Stephanie, she really has. I’m pretty sure she’s going to be there. She can give it; she’s going to be up there.
Mr. Ross: I think so. And as you know and Nigel knows, I haven’t made any qualms about this since Day 1, my gal Lakisha came next and I just thought that was a tremendous performance again from her.
Mr. Warwick: She’s a fabulous singer.
Mr. Ross: Then we had Gina, and [she’s] a little dark horse I think out there in the competition.
Mr. Warwick: Absolutely.
Mr. Ross: But she really showed something last night.
Mr. Warwick: She did. She came out fine, didn’t she? [Laughs] That’s what she is; that’s what she’s good at; that’s what she does; that’s what the judges want to see from her. It makes her unique and different in the competition by doing that, and there’s a place for her; I definitely think there’s a place for her in the Top 10.
Mr. Ross: As much as I like Lakisha, boy, that performance from Melinda last night…did that blow everybody away. Just in the short time that “Idol” has been on this year we’ve seen her evolve from this incredible shy and nice woman and coming out of her shell. And what she did last night was…holy smokes!
Mr. Warwick: I know. She’s got to be careful that she’s got somewhere to go, that’s the thing. She’s got 12 weeks left and she’s a brilliant singer, she really is…
Mr. Ross: Very interesting, that whole pacing thing.
Mr. Warwick: Yeah, she’s got to be careful she doesn’t overcook it too early because then people will get fed up. But she’s capable of doing that, she’s a bright girl.
Mr. Ross: Nigel is the one who first teased us a little bit about the big announcement that we’re going to hear tonight, and is there anything you can [do to] tease us a little more?
Mr. Warwick: Oh gosh, I can’t really, Chuck. He’s told you everything I can mostly tell you without being a bit more specific. It’s just a first for us.
Mr. Ross: Is it at the end of the show, the middle of the show? When we will learn?
Mr. Warwick: Two thirds of the way through.
Mr. Ross: Fantastic. Lastly, any surprises this evening as far as the voting?
Mr. Warwick: There are always surprises on this show Chuck, you know it. I’ll tell you what, if there wasn’t any surprise, I’d tell you that there was just so people would come and watch.
Mr. Ross: Well look-it, Ken, you’ve been so wonderful. I appreciate it, we’ll be watching tonight and we’ll talk to everybody next week.
Mr. Warwick: All the best. Bye.

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